2013, Let’s Do This.

The internet seems to be a flurry with Detox foods, drinks, and supplements, get fit quick schemes, and resolution apps to download for your smart phone. Yep, it’s that time of the year again. A time where we all pretend that we are going to make a life-long change that will most certainly make us better people who are more slender, more healthy and conscious eaters, and more regular gym-goers.

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This might seem like a negative beginning paragraph, but honestly, I just want to focus on the positive! Not the negative, starvation routes, or the crazed workout plan routes, or the buying-a-$1000-self-help-Guru routes.

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I want to make it my resolution this year to be good to myself. And by doing so, be good to those around me. Be true to the person that lives inside of me who knows I am strong and capable, yet gets overwhelmed by constant anxiety, nagging, and impossible goals…In other words, follow this great man’s advice:

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What will you be resolving yourself to this New Years??

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Hiking!!

Yes indeed, it is that time of year again! When the weather gets all snuggly… there’s a smell in the air that just can’t be beat… the days seem shorter… the colors more vibrant… and every shelf of every store displays those lush oranges, deep reds, and bold yellows to entice you to buy their warm and cozy looking decorations. (Not to mention, everything, I mean everything, is laced with pumpkin, nutmeg, apple and/or cinnamon. I know those are the only recipes my taste buds are calling!)

It’s also my favorite time of year to hike! One of my most favorite past times. Venturing off into the great trails of whatever city I happen to be in. Pretending like I’m no longer a part of my current world, but rather a part of a past world, one without booming vehicles and smartphone this/smartphone thats. A world where my peace and tranquillity can only be broken by seeing a fellow hiker approach (or run at me if said hiker happens to be a fun loving furry pooch!) to whom I smile and nod and say “Hello! marvelous day isn’t it?!” And they can only reply with “Yes!! It is!”
And why does fall make this hike so marvelous? Well, the crisp weather, the cool breezes, the warmth of the sun…it all adds up and leaves my body feeling invigorated and graciously happy.

That’s my kind of hike.

And that’s also why I’ve decided to sit down today and throw out a list of awesome hikes for my fellow readers to look into! I found two amazing sites:

Outside Magazine’s America’s Best Trails & Tecca.com’s Top Websites to Make Your Hike Great.

Outside Mag is, of course, our link to the great outdoors a la actif. If you’re a nature loving, outdoorsy, campy, hiking, climbing, trail type of person, their website and magazine are right up your alley. This particular link shows off the best trails for, well, just about any occasion! For example, they have chosen winners in many a category, including “Best Trail for Getting High,” or “Best Trail for Donating Blood,” or “Best Trail Named after Booze.” As well as a few more typically thought of trail categories like “Best Pacific Coast Trail,” or “Best Prehistoric Trail.”

Tecca.com’s article is equally handy, linking you to some awesome sites to help you plan your next hiking adventure or escapade into the great outdoors. They site reviews perfect for backpackers, family outings, pet owners, etc. and all in one convenient article.

So what’s your excuse!? You have all the resources right at your finger tips, and all the adventure lies in you. 🙂

OH and when you get home…

Apple Cider Cookies

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Apple Pie Sandwiches

Enjoy! :):)

 

I’m Strong til the Finich, ‘Cause I eats me Spinach

Popeye had it right; Spinach comes packed with a whopping punch of 36% (6.43mg) Iron per cup (180g) when cooked/boiled without salt.

And while it’s great for many a reason to eat your Spinach, it’s beneficial to think outside the spinach box to find nutritional rather than supplemental ways to get enough iron. It’s extremely important to make sure your iron levels are in check, especially for us girls, and especially for us veggies! I, personally, suffer from anemia and I can always tell when my iron levels are low. I become extremely lethargic, I crave ice and, yes, spinach, and I also have a strange metal-esque taste and feeling in my mouth. It’s not fun. And It’s not necessary either!!

You may already know that there are a multitude of fods that are high in iron and yet acceptable for veg-heads. BUT did you know that there are actually means of COOKING that can affect the amount of iron your body consumes?! I didn’t either. And I was extremely intrigued by the Shape posting about cooking in Cast Iron Pans. According to the posting, “Women should aim to get 15mg iron a day (quite true), so use your cast iron skillet to prepare iron-rich foods such as lean beef, fish, and poultry. **Bonus: You’ll avoid all the carcinogenic toxins found in many non-stick pan coatings (TOTAL bonus!!).” 

But what happens? What gets added to one’s food when cooked via Cast Iron skillet??

Acidic and watery foods (like spinach and other leafy greens or fish for those pescotarians out there) absorb the iron molecules from the cast iron pan/skillet.

Researchers published a study in the July 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and showed that cooking in cast iron skillets added significant amounts of iron to 20 foods tested. For example, the researchers reported that the iron content in scrambled eggs increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron. Pretty amazing huh?? They also found that the iron in one serving of tomato sauce increased from under one milligram to almost 6 mg when cooked in an iron pan. Most surprising, though, is applesauce. A 100-gram serving (about a quarter of a pound) went from .35 mg of iron to over 7 mg when cooked in cast iron! I need to get me a Cast Iron Pan!

A few things to keep in mind:

The longer you use your pan, the more build up of a fatty layer will develop. It’s still safe and healthy to use your pan, as a matter of fact, chefs believe it enhances flavor! However it decreases the amount of iron transferred from the pan, so don’t rely just on the pan! 

Also, beware of cooking your food too long. Eventually, if left long enough, more than just iron will be transferred. A yucky, metally taste will come along too. Never fun.

And a few more tips via Dr. Weil:

“One caveat about cast iron cookware: don’t use it for deep-frying. (You shouldn’t deep-fry anyway.) Iron can accelerate the oxidation of fat and cause it to become rancid.

When choosing iron cookware, look for products with a fine, smooth surface, which will take better to seasoning. Avoid pots and pans with pits, ridges, cracks, chips, seams and jagged edges. Good quality cast iron is uniformly gray and the same color inside and out.”

 

Scrumdidilyumptious Apple Oatmeal Cookies!

   

Two of my very favorite snacks include Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Apples. When I found this recipes online (via FitSugar-by way of Pinterest of course!) I had to give it a try! These bodacious cookies are a delight to the tastebuds, and actually quite healthy for you! The recipe incorporates Flax Meal, Apples, and Cinnamon (cinnamon was my own addition—I decided upon it because I was all out of Vanilla Extract and in my mind, when Apple meets Cinnamon, one cannot go wrong.

The Flax Meal comes loaded with Fiber-soluble and insoluble; it has a great dose of Omega-3’s (something that is a bit more difficult for vegetarians to come across); and, another little known benefit of the mighty Flax is that it is an abundant source of Lignans. Lignans have both plant estrogen and antioxidant effects on our bodies. They could be cancer fighting and preventing agents.

Alright, now on to the Recipe!!

Apple Oatmeal Flax Cookies
[as inspired by: http://www.fitsugar.com/Healthy-Recipe-Apple-Oatmeal-Flax-Cookies-5324399]

Ingredients:


1.5 cups Whole Wheat Flour

1/4 cup Flax meal (ground flax seed)

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 tablespoon Cinnamon

1 pinch salt (I’m not a big fan of adding too much salt so I used less than the teaspoon the original recipe called for.)

1 cup Canola Oil/Vegetable Oil/or any form of Cooking & Baking Oil you deem perfect.

1 cup Turbinado Sugar (or any form of sugar you please.)

egg whites

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (not 100% necessary, especially if you use the cinnamon.)

2 cups Whole Grain Quick Oats

2 Small to Medium Apples, Peeled and Chopped

1 cup of any of the following add ins (totally optional suggestions! Feel free to get creative and think of your own!) Chopped Walnuts, Sliced Almonds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Chips, Carob Chips, Pumpkin Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds, Chopped Dates, etc. etc.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, flax meal, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate, larger bowl, beat together oil, sugar, eggs, and (if you added it) Vanilla Extract  until fluffy. Stir in the oats, apples, flour mixture, and nuts/add-in option.
  4. Spoon out cookies onto a non-stick cookie sheet. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until edges are slightly brown. (It took my oven 15 mins on the nose, but ovens vary so keep an eye and nose on the lookout) Place cookies on a cooling rack. Enjoy!!

The Omega-3 Debate

Recently, there has been talk about the possible bad side effects of supplementing with Omega-3‘s as well as the “31 percent of omega-3 supplements failing to live up to their claims.”  The thing that gets me is, a “supplement” is just that, a (typically) swallowable pill that adds to one’s diet what they either are, or think they are missing. Can one not simply amp up their diet and forego the unpleasantries of swallowing horse pills each morning??

Not long ago, I dove head first into writing a scientific research paper that looked at the effects of one’s diet on their auto-immune systems (focusing on Arthritis and joint inflammation). Throughout my research, I found that the Mediterranean diet was the cream of the crop, tip of the top diet for not only those suffering from auto immune disorders such as Arthritis, but also in a general lifestyle way too. 

Why is this? Well the Mediterranean Diet consists of a lifestyle in which nothing is cut out (dark chocolate and wine can still make you feel fine!) and everything that is eaten, is fresh, natural, organic, and of course, moderation is key. Another key aspect of this diet is the amount of naturally occurring Omega-3’s that are consumed.

 

“What?” You say. “Omega-3 doesn’t sound tasty and delicious, speak English please.”

Omega-3’s are essential Fatty Acids that our bodies need in order for us to function properly and live our lives from day to day. Because our bodies do not produce them naturally (hence the reference “essential” attached to their definition) we must consume them in our diets, particularly Omega-3’s in the form of EPA and DHA. The primary food source is fish, though flax (try some delish Flax Seed enhanced Pancakes for one stellar breakfast!) and algae oil have been newly discovered to help those of us who don’t eat fish. And who consumes a substantial amount of fish in their typical diet? Oh yes, you guessed it, those Mediterranean smarties.

 

What’s so wrong with being a proud American consuming a stereotypically proud American diet of corn-based and processed foods? Why I think I answered my own question there…but in case I didn’t:


One’s diet should maintain a fine balance between those Omega-3 essential fatty acids and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. (The recommended balance is a 2:1, Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio; the average American ratio is more like 15 or 16:1- WOAH nelly.) Omega-6 essential fatty acids are yet another essential to the healthy functioning of our day-to-day lives, however these fatty acids are derived, in majority, from vegetable oils, including safflower, soybean, and in particular, corn oils. For this reason, Americans, who rely a great deal on corn based, well, everything, are giving their diets a pretty big disadvantage as far as that “happy functioning” state goes.

Sure, our bodies adapt and learn how to function at a seemingly happy state, but throw in the typical wear and tear that comes with aging, and suddenly ailments set in. For this reason, it’s my own opinion that we should start to head towards a more balance fatty acid ratio. I mean, dark chocolate and wine are still allowed! Why would you say no!?


(A personal favorite of mine: Dreaming Tree Wine.)


(Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegrante/Acai/Goji-all tried and true kitchen companions. :})

Helmet Head. ‘Nuff Said.

 

As you all know, I am indeed an avid Biker Chick, of the manual bicycle sort. Ya know, where you’re pumping and huffing and sweating up hills, wishing that you had a lasso to grab ahold of that show-off car that just whizzed on by you.

So, you’re huffing, and puffing, and blowing that hill down, and you triumphantly reach the top and maybe go downhill a smidge of the way leading to the next incline that eventually leads you to your ultimate destination. Now you’re there and it’s time to drink some H2O, pop some food in your mouth, and check the bathroom mirror to make sure you’re at least presentable for work/class/social gathering/etc.

My issues truly start here.

I have long hair, and a lot of it! And it’s wavy to boot, which I like to embrace and style naturally going for that oh-so-coveted Jennifer Aniston beachy-waves look. This look, however, is not enhanced by a bike helmet. In light of this issue, I took it upon myself to Google search and test and ponder and type out this post in order to shed a bit of light on just how one can hush the helmet-head.

There’s the typical, go-to headband, hat, pony-tail, bun…but these become so boring and un-fun, so quickly. That is, until you’ve created your own, cut from unused jersey fabric headband! And wrapped it round your noggin in a cute, funky way!

Or you can follow this link, http://www.refinery29.com/helmet-hairstyles, and learn 5 cute and seemingly doable helmet hair buster do’s. I love how cute and stylish they all are, and the fact that they look as though they will hide the sweat and crazies caused by the helmet, makes them all that much cuter!
**WARNING** before following this link, make sure you’re knowledgable in how to style your own hair into a braid, twist, and/or bun. Otherwise, you could be disappointed.

A great tip I gathered from the same site as above, is the use of dry shampoo to vamp and revamp the roots. As well as a beachy-waves spray (this link leads to a homemade version of just such a spray-cheaper and healthier for your hair!) that you can spritz onto hair after arriving at your destination.

I hope these tips help out anyone else who happens to be a bike rider with lack-lustre hair! Anyone have some tips I can add to the list?! I’d gladly give them a try!

 

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

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Actually, my mama never told me about days like these… Days where I feel like I can’t find happiness or feel as though I have a purpose or direction in life. She has always, instead, been quite positive and supportive in that motherly way. Cheering me on and boosting my confidence.

Maybe that’s where she and my dad went wrong. Maybe I was never actually meant to hurt those around be but instead to help them help me.

It’s a confusing and perplexing world. One that has dealt me my fair share of conundrums and well, I am in one now! What does one do when their closest of friends and loved ones are not readily available in a face to face rather than thumb to iPhone manner??

Is it yoga? Is it Tai Chi? Is it meditation?? Is it that 7 mile hike in the woods or that 6 mile bike ride?? Or that scrumptious dark chocolate??? Where are the answers??

One thing I know for certain is that I’ll be baking these cookies soon! Maybe a little good-ole-fashion comfort food while I call my mom will do just the trick! What do ya think?!

Apple Oatmeal Flax Cookies!

Zen and the Art of Life

I happened across a book that I’ve had for awhile now, yet have never fully read in detail: Zen and the Art of Cooking, by Jon Sandifier. I have always loved the Yogi-esque title, and have always known the premise behind the book-that cooking should be an art form; what you eat should take time and effort and knowledge. But because I already strive to eat and take care of my body in such a way, I found myself telling myself that it was ok to put off reading it, that I would be ok without the extra words muffling up my spare time.

But something told me last night that I was quite wrong and that I needed a refresher on just what Zen really was.

Hurts when I exhist

That refresher was enforced all the more when I received Time Magazine’s daily e-mail concerning the top stories and reports; one of which being Your Life is Fully MobileWhich made my mind immediately connect the Zen from my book to the Zen of all aspects of life.

Zen is described by Mr. Sandifier as “occasions in our lives when we have felt completely at one with ourselves and the world…our mind can open to new possibilities.”  This is a very difficult state to reach for most people, including myself. For all of the yoga I do, and for all the times I conquer, or at least try to conquer fear and negativity, I still find it extremely difficult to meditate or even focus on just one task at a time. My mind is constantly revving up something new and trying desperately to answer every question I come up with.

My question for you is, what do you think our world today-with endless technology, information at our fingertips, and where the phrase “there’s an app for that,” can be applied to anything, even this very post! (Zen Apps) is doing to our ability to become one with ourselves and the world around us?

Time puts it oh-so-perfectly: “In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water; for millions, this is the first phone they’ve ever had. In the U.S., close to 9 in 10 adults carry a mobile, leaving its marks on body, mind, spirit. There’s a smart-phone gait: the slow sidewalk weave that comes from being lost in conversation rather than looking where you’re going. Thumbs are stronger, attention shorter, temptation everywhere: we can always be, mentally, digitally, someplace other than where we are.”
{source: http://techland.time.com/2012/08/16/your-life-is-fully-mobile/?xid=newsletter-daily#ixzz23iov6ExH}

And I don’t think it could possibly get any more accurate than that. I am extremely guilty of using my iPhone to distract me from my surroundings, and not even because my surroundings are less than gorgeous! I assume it’s more to do with the fact that I, or society, has trained my brain to concentrate on letting the world know what I’m looking at via InstaGram and what I’m thinking via FaceBook or Twitter, and should something absolutely stellar come up, I’ll of course have to find it, Pin it, and share it with my loyal Pinterest followers. Or, hey, Blog it to my loyal Blog followers!

In Japan there’s a saying “shojin ryori,” which means “food to develop spirituality.” When’s the last time Mickie D’s or Sonic fulfilled your spirituality?

For me, that’s the whole point of this blog. Not to make you feel silly or ashamed of yourself for being constantly checked in to your social media and endless bits of knowledge received via fingertips, but rather to make sure that when you are checking in to these cyber-worlds, you’re also making sure to check in to the real world that’s around you at that very moment. Noticing the small things, the big things, the smells, the sounds, the sights-and noticing them for yourself. Not just so you can share them on FaceBook, InstaGram, and Pinterest. We’re all guilty of doing it, and guilty isn’t even the proper word, because in all honesty, I think it’s pretty kickass that our world has become so advanced that knowledge can come directly from our fingertips. I just think that we need to work on becoming knowledgable from the inside out.

Calcium Conundrum

From the time I was very young-we’re talking before I had the ability to consume most solid foods-I have never liked or reacted positively to drinking milk. Of any form. Whole, 2%, 1%, Skim, Almond, Rice, Soy, etc. etc. none of them have ever been a pleaser to my pallet.

Because of this, getting enough Calcium in my diet has been a worry of mine for quite some time now. I mean, I am rather short and small boned–could this be a direct relation to my intentional avoiding of the white, creamy liquid every child is encouraged to drink? Or maybe it’s just the way I am. (The latter excuse is the one I typically use.) Regardless, I worry.

Also, there has been a lot of buzz recently about the amazing abilities of Chocolate Milk:

“The combination of carbohydrates and protein in low-fat chocolate milk appears to be “just right” for refueling weary muscles, says William Lunn, PhD, an exercise scientist at the University of Connecticut. “It’s not just a dessert item, but it’s very healthy, especially for endurance athletes,” Lunn tells WebMD.”

There was a study done in which athletes’ muscles were tested to see how they responded to Non-Fat Chocolate Milk versus Traditional Sports Drinks:

Post-exercise muscle biopsies showed increased skeletal muscle protein synthesis — a sign that muscles were better able to rebuild — after the milk drink, compared with the carb-only beverage. Additionally, drinking fat-free chocolate milk led to a higher concentration of glycogen, or muscle fuel, in muscles 30 and 60 minutes after exercise, compared with the sports drink. Replenishing glycogen after exercise helps future performance, Lunn says.

Seems like a pretty great reason for someone who’s active and constantly on the go to invest their body in some healing and healthy milk, doesn’t it?! But I just don’t like milk! Nor does my body seem to respond in a happy way to consuming too milk or too much yogurt. It’s as if I’m borderline Lactose intolerant.

As a vegetarian, this just seems to add to the constant schooling I have to do in order to stay on top of the whole “having a healthy body, inside and out” thing. Pff.

However, as a vegetarian, I am happy to inform you that obtaining Calcium from milk is the BEST way to get calcium, is actually a myth. According to the British journalist Anne Karpf, who exhaustively explored the problems with milk for the British paper The Guardian, “American women are among the biggest consumers of calcium in the world, yet still have one of the highest levels of osteoporosis in the world…Most Chinese people eat and drink no dairy products and consume only half the calcium of Americans…yet osteoporosis is uncommon in China despite an average life expectancy of 70.” She goes on to propose that the bone loss and deteriorating bone tissue that take place in osteoporosis are due not to calcium deficiency but rather to its resorption: it’s not that our bodies don’t get enough calcium, rather that they excrete too much of what they already have.

{source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2003/dec/13/foodanddrink.weekend}

There are NUMEROUS ways for us to get calcium. By us, I mean anyone and everyone-not dependent on if they eat meats or drink their milk! For instance, those Dark Leafy Greens the doc is always pushing? Well guess what! They are teeming with phytochemicals like beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin as well as iron, CALCIUM, folate, potassium, magnesium, folate, vitamins A, C, and K, all this while also preventing macular degeneration, ensuring bone and joint health, preventing various types of cancer  reducing the risk of diabetes. Some lesser known contenders to add to your recipes are kale, kohlrabi, fennel, bok choy, mustard and beet greens!

  

AND a few other common Calcium obtainers to look into:

  • Almonds, dry roasted (1 oz. = 80 mg)
  • White beans (1 cup = 226 mg)
  • Broccoli, cooked (1 cup = 132 mg)
  • Brussel Sprouts (1 cup = 128 mg)
  • Kale, cooked (1 cup = 204 mg)
  • Collard greens, cooked (1 cup = 356 mg) More than a glass of milk!! That’s right!

And because I hate to leave you bored with just info, here are a few fun recipes for your fancy:
9 Homemade Milk-Alternative Recipes

Vegan Fudgey-Strawberry Pops!

A Little Something Random…

Couple Admiring Monet...

 

My love of artistic things in every form, along with my nerdy love and passion for nature led me to subscribe so-to-speak, to Nat Geo’s Picture of the Day. This is yesterday’s (Aug 9, 2012) picture. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of one of my favorite scenes, in one of my favorite movies-Ferris Bueller. You all know the scene I speak of! **and if not, you need to get on that and watch Ferris Bueller!**

National Geographic’s Picture of the Day